US imposes sanctions on Venezuelan gold
- Published: Mar 27, 2019, 6 AM
The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC, imposed sanctions March 19 against the state-run Venezuelan gold miner Corporación Venezolana de Guayana Minerven C.A., known as Minerven, and its president, Adrian Antonio Perdomo Mata, for helping to financially bolster what the U.S. government calls the illegimate ongoing regime of former Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
The assets of Minerven and Perdomo in the United States are now blocked and all U.S. citizens are barred from dealing with both parties.
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Maduro unsuccessfully tried to repatriate nearly 80 metric tons of gold from the United Kingdom, but was blocked in his efforts by the Bank of England.
Three days after imposing the sanctions on Minerven and Perdomo, on March 22 OFAC also leveled sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned and controlled bank, BANDES, and four subsidiaries that it owns or controls: the Banco Bandes Uruguay S.A. in Uruguay, the Banco de Venezuela, S.A. Banco Universal in Venezuela, the Banco Bicentenario del Pueblo, de la Clase Obrera, Mujer y Comunias, Banco Universal C.A., also based in Venezuela, and the Banco Prodem S.A. based in Bolivia.
The March 19 sanctions against Minerven and its president were imposed pursuant to President Trump's Executive Order 13850 as amended.
A March 22 Treasury press release stated: “The illegitimate Maduro regime is pillaging the wealth of Venezuela while imperiling indigenous people by encroaching on protected areas and causing deforestation and habitat loss. Maduro’s scheme to usurp the National Assembly’s authority and strip Venezuela of natural resources has exposed local communities to dangerous toxins,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
“Treasury is targeting gold processor Minerven and its President for propping up the inner circle of the corrupt Maduro regime. We will aggressively pursue those involved with Maduro’s reckless illicit gold trade which is contributing to this financial, humanitarian, and environmental crisis.”
Maduro assumed Venezuela’s presidency on April 19, 2013. Maduro lost in the Jan. 23, 2019, elections. Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez, a Venezuelan politician, has been serving as president of the National Assembly of Venezuela and as the partially recognized acting president of Venezuela since winning office on Jan. 23.
The OFAC advisory indicates that “Without approval of the National Assembly, and without regard for the environment and local communities, Maduro awarded himself broad authorities to oversee the development of the Orinoco Mining Arc years ago. The mining and subsequent sale of gold has been one of the Maduro regime’s most lucrative financial schemes in recent years, as hundreds of thousands of miners have mined for gold in dangerous, makeshift mines in southern Venezuela, all of which are controlled by the Venezuelan military.”
Further, “As the sole state gold processor in Venezuela, Minerven purchases gold from miners and melts it into bars. The military then transports the gold bars to air bases outside Caracas, for further transport to the Central Bank of Venezuela. Since 2016, the Maduro regime purchased the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of gold from small, independent miners, paying the miners in Venezuelan bolivars, even as Venezuela is experiencing hyperinflation as a result of extreme economic mismanagement.
“This practice has allowed the illegitimate regime to convert its depreciating currency into gold and other foreign currencies, paying the miners in nearly worthless Bolivars, while allowing the Maduro regime a lifeline to cling to power. The profits generated by illegal mining directed by Maduro are coveted by the Venezuelan military, to whom Maduro grants liberal access to the mines.
“This furthers Maduro’s ability to maintain power over the military, as its desire to protect this illicit income reinforces the military’s staunch loyalty to Maduro. Even as Venezuelan interim President, Juan Guaidó, was recognized by the United States and over 50 other countries as the legitimate authority in Venezuela, Maduro has been unwilling to relinquish his control of the gold mining industry or his financial interests in this illicit trade.”
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